Podcast: “Take Me Away”

This was an experiment on mixing “live” recording with “live” vocals. DIY Karaoke?

or Listen to the track: Take Me Away (4min 30secs)
The basic chords are F/ Dm/ B#m/ A#
Chorus: B#m/ Dm

GarageBand - Take Me Away

I didn’t deliberately compose this. Was just, you know, pressing a few keys on the piano and discovered the chord combinations, hummed a tune, and decided it was worth recording it down. So out came the Macbook Pro.

Rhythm, fillers & Chorus tracks
First I recorded the rhythm track (“Acoustic Guitar Echoes” effect) just to get a feel of it, then tried to find matching drum beats. Final selection – “Jazzy Rock Beat” with tempo set at 120. The first rhythm track was eventually discarded (since it was done quickly just so I could decide on a drum beat) and a better version recorded to fit the selected drum beats. I later realised the Jazzy Drum Beat didn’t comform fully to the 4/4 beat so had to do editing/ splicing/ cutting of the recorded tracks. Wasn’t too difficult after the experience gained from the March Upon the Black piece.

Next I worked on the fillers for the rhythm track (you hear them come in at the 2nd Stanza, around 1 min 22 secs), and chose the “Summer Sounds” effect.

For the chorus, it was a combination of 2 tracks. I’m not sure if you can hear it — there’s a rhythm part and a picking part. The rhythm part was in “Dreamy Shimmer” and the picking in “Funky Rhythm” effect. I set a higher volume on the guitar pickups. Recorded quite a few versions (mainly because I kept messing up on the drum beats).

While I recorded quite a few tracks, eventuallyt only 4 or 5 were really used and they were duplicated for the respective stanzas. Meaning — I probably couldn’t play this in a “live” performance without making any mistakes (unless I really practiced).

Drum beats
I find that the drum beat is a major influence to the mood to the piece (quite obvious, right?). Normally I play the rhythm track on a Repeat loop, and go though the list of drum beats, experimenting with each set. Since this was something like a relaxed piece, I couldn’t choose the usual rock beats. The jazzy beats were too… jazzy. Then I found the Jazzy Rock Beat which sounded quite matching. But I had to do some adjustments to the “length” of the beat by “stretching” it (er, either you understand me or you don’t at this point — guess you have to use GarageBand to understand what I’m talking about).

For the finale part, I wanted to add more “oomph” to the track, so I searched for another drum beat to add as a layer to the basic Jazzy Rock Beat. Eventually I settled on Classic Rock Beat 1 & 5 (you see them at the last row in the screen shot).

The rhythm and chorus (and the drums) were more or less set at this point. So I started with the vocals. There’s only one vocal track recorded. I created a duplicate layer and set a “Helium Voice” effect, where I used the “Male to Female” setting. Sounded Ok I guess. Just felt that it needed a female sounding voice. Since my wife won’t sing for me, and I can’t do falsetto, the GarageBand vocal sound effect is really very neat. But for the second chorus part onwards, I added the track of my original vocal recording (i.e. Male voice) using the “Vocal Reflection” effect, to add a bit of depth to the vocals.

I tried to write lyrics for this song but gave up. Simply no inspiration. So if you can’t pick up the words clearly, it’s not you 🙂 Apart from the beginning part “Take me away to another place”, the rest of the vocals are really mumblings. I was interested in the melody than actual lyrics.

Putting it all together
With all the separate rhythm tracks, chorus, vocals and drum beats chosen/ recorded, I went about fitting them in at appropriate start/ end points. Then ran through the track a few times, added slight fade ins and outs to make the transitions less abrupt. Finally (and this is often the most tedious part), I had to run through the entire track to ensure there’s no distortion to the output volume (where the volume bar crosses to the red zone). It will inevitably happen, especially at the finale part where the vocals and drums and guitar all hit a crescendo. So I normally lower the volume of that specific track, or I lower the volume of the master track.

RamblingLibrarian’s Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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DIY laptop case for your Macbook Pro (by Isoglossia)

If you’re like this blogger, who feels that it’s not worth shelling out £20 (approx. SGD$60) for a new laptop case unless it “fits like a tiny wetsuit” rather than a “blown-out rhino hide” (heh heh), then you might want to check this out:

This takes around an hour to do, including beer-opening etc, and doesn’t require any tools you probably don’t have lying around the place already. Materials required are:

  • Large piece of closed-cell foam (i.e., a backpacking sleeping pad[**]). It comes in various thicknesses; I recommend 3/8″ or 1 cm
  • Duct tape
  • Self-adhesive Velcro® (optional)

Follow the 12-steps (11 steps, to be exact) at this page.

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Podcast: “March Upon The Black”

[Originally posted at RamblingLibrarian]

My first attempt at an “orchestrated” piece, something along the lines of Pachelbel‘s Canon:

March Upon The Black
4mins 59 secs

Didn’t quite turn out that way though, but not a total disaster either. There are 17 layers for this, with the major ones being the orchestral strings.
GarageBand - March Upon the Black

The String section at the top (those indicated as “locked”, i.e. with the green lock icon turned on) are the basic melody for the entire song. At certain sections, I shifted the pitch (up or down 12) for variation. I had to lock those 7 tracks; if not GarageBand kept prompting me that some tracks could not be played (lack of RAM). I guess simply too much complexity to handle. Either that or I need to add another 1GB of RAM…

The last 4 tracks are also the orchestral strings, but they played a different melody. To the astute observer, you’ll notice that near the end part, the tracks are layered and stacked together and actually they are the same track that’s copied and shifted in pitch. End effect was that I had something close to the “canon” technique, with the same tune but different tones.

In the middle you’ll see a “Rock Kit” track. That’s the track for the marching drums, which I created from scratch. There was extensive editing to have the drum beats inline with everything else.

One difficult aspect to this track was the tempo. The overall tempo was set at 110 but the strings didn’t really follow that tempo strictly (I was improvising at the beginning). So I had to extensively edit the subsequent drums and other strings to try and match the tempo. I did this by splitting the track, adjusting it to match the underlying track tempo… hard work.

RamblingLibrarian’s Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Podcast: Original soundtrack for my “I Am Singaporean” podcast

I created this original piece for the “I Am Singaporean” meme. It’s a background track to which I added the vocals later. This track has no vocals and has minor extras (like the bells, chimes) compared to the spoken version:

I Am Singaporean (SoundTrack) Ivan Chew 2006
3mins 35 secs

There are 10 tracks in total, mostly the orchestral string pieces:
GarageBand - I Am Singaporean Soundtrack

I started by playing around with the software track (using the “Musical Typing” option, i.e. play using the keyboard) and once I was happy with a basic underlying tune for the strings, I created other String tracks to match that underlying track. I guess you have to hear it but I’m too lazy to upload the individual pieces, so try to imagine : )

In short, I composed the piece by mucking around. Heh.

[Also posted at RamblingLibrarian]

RamblingLibrarian’s Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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Podcast: “Run (Our Feet Will Follow)”

[Originally posted at RamblingLibrarian]

Here’s a track where I experimented with the addition of vocal recordings:

Run (Our Feet Will Follow) – 6mins 11 secs

In this particular track, I’ve experimented with vocals. You’d hear these lines being repeated:

We do not always have to know
Where we’re running to
So long as our heart is in motion
Our feet will follow

My diction isn’t too good and the third line tends to sound like “so long as our heart is an ocean” rather than “in motion”. I figured it was me rather than the microphone, heh.

That’s my voice you hear (tweaked it a little with the Equaliser settings) and when you hear the Child’s voice, that’s me too! There’s a Vocal effect in GarageBand that allows you to manipulate your voice inputs to sound like a child, woman or man (up to a certain extent of course).

This track has a relatively slow and steady beat, ideal for jogging or working out (according to my preferred running pace, that is). Initially I titled it “Run Like the Wind” but my wife said it sounded like a cliche. I agreed. She then suggested just calling it “Run” and I liked it (BTW, up till now, she hasn’t heard the song or most of the songs I’ve posted, and that’s not something you can force on someone, LOL).

Next I decided the track needed vocals for variety. I listened to the track, and with the microphone plugged in, I uttered some words. Slowly but surely, the words were formed. A case of discovering words through music?

This is what the GarageBand track looks like (16 layers):
GarageBand - Run (Our Feet Will Follow)

RamblingLibrarian’s Podcasts:
My Odeo Podcast

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My wife’s Watercolour Pencil piece – “Bavarian Landscape”

My wife rarely draws or paint. In fact, this is the first time I’ve seen her do it, and so I HAD to blog it!

This was done with watercolour pencils.
My Wife's Artwork 1

And this was after she applied water to it:
My Wife's Artwork 2
“Bavarian Landscape” (Jul 2006), Watercolour pencil on watercolour paper. Lower res scan.

She drew the picture from memory, inspired from a trip to Germany quite some time back. I jokingly told her to first picture looked like what a five year-old produced… ok, that was mean of me, sorry! Good or bad, I think adults should just experiment and put their pictures online since they already drew it.

In fact, I’m secretly proud of her for deciding to experiment with an art piece. : )

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Tribute to Lim Kim San (1916-2006)

It is only natural that
Are thanked in life,
And celebrated in Memory.
Ivan Chew, 24 Jul 06

See also: ASK! blog by the Public Library Services, NLB.
Cited from NLB Newsflash webpage (Jul 06):

For a biographical profile, please read the full Infopedia article.

To get a list of published articles about the man, please consult the resource guide (PDF 165k) prepared by our Reference Librarians.

Finally, to get a succinct online overview of the man, please try the ASK! blog.

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